Competency for a new era - report to the Storting

Recommendation from the Norwegian Ministry of Defence on 1 March 2013 and approved by the Council of State on the same date. (Stoltenberg's Second Government)

The defence sector is entering a new phase in a long process of change. This phase involves the most important resource for the defence sector – its people – and places a focus on competency.

In the 1990s, the main challenge faced by the defence sector was that its structure had not changed in line with general conditions. As this fact became generally acknowledged, the process was implemented to bring about a substantial change, transforming the Armed Forces from a mobilisation defence with a Cold War philosophy to a modern, rapid reaction capability defence of top quality. This process of change has had an impact on every part of the defence sector and has provided considerable reinforcements to the Armed Forces' operative capability. Today, the Norwegian Armed Forces have a new force structure, modern and high-technology equipment and employees with advanced competencies. The conduct of the Norwegian forces in Afghanistan over the past 11 years provides clear illustration of the above. This is also true of the operation in Libya, the UN operation in the Republic of Chad, the operations to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia and the UNIFIL II marine operation.

However, if the Norwegian Armed Forces are to retain this level of combative strength and operative capability over the decades to come, we have to think ahead. The implemented changes have been successful precisely because they were introduced at an early stage and were ahead of their time. The changes would not have been possible without broad political commitment and the defence sector's ability and capacity for  long term planning.

We have to learn from this success. We have to make the right investments today to keep our organisation at a high level also in the future. One of the most significant strategic challenges faced by the sector is to remain competitive on the labour market of the future, so that we are able to recruit, develop and make use of the right personnel with the right competencies.

There are three reasons behind the decision to make changes now to personnel and competency. Firstly, the further development of this area is decisive for the continued success of a combative Armed Forces in a future of constant and rapid changes. Secondly, the area of personnel and competency has only seen a limited degree of comprehensive and systematic analysis and development during the process of transformation to a rapid reaction capability defence. Thirdly, changes within society indicate that the defence sector will face tougher competition for competency in the future.

Defence capability is developed over a long-term perspective and requires continuous development and renewal. This White Paper creates a framework for a new policy on competency within the defence sector – a competency reform. The reform shall help ensure that the defence sector of the future has access to the competency required to carry out its missions. The White Paper therefore deliberates on key instruments for further development and renewal. One of the more important issues will be identifying good mechanisms for the recruitment of employees from a wider section of society. The aim for the organisation is increased diversity and flexibility, a increased flow of competency between the defence sector and society at large and facilitating the development of necessary in-depth competency and specialisation.

The defence sector comprises the Ministry of Defence and all subordinate agencies; the Armed Forces, the Norwegian Defence Estates Agency, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) and the Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM). The requirement to develop into a more modern competency organisation is equally applicable to both the sector as a whole and each individual agency. These agencies differ but have the same goals and social responsibility, in addition to a certain flow of military personnel. There are substantial gains to be made in engaging all agencies to jointly tackle the challenges relating to competency, instead of addressing these individually. For the Ministry, the Norwegian Defence Estates Agency, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) and the Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM), this challenge is no different than that faced by other actors in the public sector. It is all a question of attracting the best candidates in a highly competitive labour market. As new generations reach working age and are choosing among prospective employers, those organisations which are known to invest in competency and development of individual employees are bound to be the most attractive.

In addition to this, the Norwegian Armed Forces have several unique requirements for change. The transition to a rapid reaction capability defence has impacted the Armed Forces more than other parts of the defence sector. The weapon systems of the future will feature an extremely advanced level of technology and will be interlinked in a complex network. The technological development in defence systems is more advanced than developments in civilian life. Competency is therefore an extremely critical factor if we are to develop the highest possible operative capability and emergency preparedness based on the investments in high-tech weapon systems already made and those planned for the future.

This high-tech reality and the need for command of technology will have an impact on recruitment to military education by the defence agencies and on the content of military educational programmes, and will increase the need for recruitment of diverse specialised knowledge directly from the normal labour market. Examples of subjects in which the defence sector will experience an increased need for in-depth insight and specialisation is the future range from technology and ICT to insight into military preparedness and social security. The defence sector will also experience a higher need for specialists who can operate within complex settings and situations and act quickly and correctly when under pressure. These abilities are developed through experience and evaluation, and take time.

The prevailing long-term plan for the defence sector, Proposition to Storting 73 S (2011–2012), Et forsvar for vår tid (Defence for our times), introduces personnel and competency as a long-term, strategic development subject and a main priority for the Norwegian government. Several projects have been launched on the basis of this Proposition. This White Paper is based on the recommendations laid down in the long-term plan and the recommendation from the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Recommendation no. 388 S (2011–2012). This White Paper provides the political platform and driving force for a reform which changes the way in which the defence sector carries out recruitment, development and exploitation of competencies. The end goal is a defence sector of the future which is capable of fulfilling its social responsibilities and being a competitive employer.

Summary 

The White Paper is divided into eight chapters. Chapter 1 describes the changes and trends within the defence sector and society at large. The following chapters 2 to 5 deal with four aspects which will be decisive for the defence sector's ability to meet future challenges related to competency; becoming a modern knowledge-based organisation with a greater diversity among its workforce, increased flexibility in relation to making competency available, more openness and cooperation with other parties. Chapter 6 discusses the need to increase the number of women working in the Armed Forces. Chapter 7 involves an area on which the Norwegian Storting has requested particular focus, cf. Recommendation no. 388 S (2011–2012), schemes for various categories of personnel, including and in particular the officer corps. Chapter 8 discusses how the reform shall be implemented and presents areas for action, further studies and political guidelines for the process ahead.

The defence sector currently has a new structure and employees with a high level of competencies. The defence sector also has a high quality materiel park and one of the best Armed Forces in the world. This was clearly illustrated by their contributions in Afghanistan and a number of other international operations.

However, it is important not to rest on the laurels of our good achievements, but to plan for the future and maintain a long-term perspective. The defence sector has to be able to successfully complete complex assignments out on the field while fulfilling key national roles such as emergency preparedness, presence and upholding sovereignty. Competency is a decisive factor for the further development of our modern rapid reaction capability defence, in a world of rapid change. We have not made sufficient adaptations to the area of competency to meet future needs and new security challenges. Trends within modern day society indicate that the entire defence sector will be subject to much harsher competition for qualified manpower in the future. The rapid pace of technological developments has resulted in materiel and weapon systems which are much more complex, such as the new frigates and combat aircraft. The defence sector requires employees who are able to operate and maintain this new, advanced materiel and who can handle composite, complex assignments. The defence agency will as always require personnel with good physical and military-specific skills. At the same time, they need a much wider range of competencies than before to take on new assignments, and there is an ever-increasing need for specialisation and top competency.

In 20 years' time, the assignments and framework conditions for the defence sector may have changed dramatically. The changing climate for defence and security policy generates new assignments and, at the same time, the defence sector is impacted by the same trends and developments as society at large. The competition for relevant, highly qualified manpower will only increase in the future. We have to lay the foundations today to help ensure a competitive defence sector of the future which is recognised as an attractive employer on the future labour market.

Despite the significant resources invested by the defence sector in development of competency and education, competency itself has not been subject to the same process of changes as the rest of the Armed Forces. We have to make these changes now, so that we are fully prepared for the future. The next phase of the transformation of the defence sector requires the development of a knowledge-based organisation for a new era. This is all a question of having the right people in the right place in an organisation which has been fundamentally transformed.

We have to ensure diversity and flexibility within the defence sector in order to achieve the required operative capability. The employees of the future will have different expectations and will require more from their employers. Young people today expect to have the opportunity to develop, to be constantly challenged at work and to be able to combine work and family life. One factor which could prove challenging in terms of recruitment is the reduction in number of locations and the move away from locations in major cities and other densely populated areas. This could make it difficult for the families of new employees to find work. The defence sector will also have to provide more predictable career paths, a higher level of flexibility in the support systems and will have to sustain its high rate of investments in family and personnel policies.

If the defence sector is to successfully complete more complex assignments and continue to provide the operative capability required, it will be necessary to recruit employees from a wider section of society. The different agencies must recruit and make use of a much more diverse workforce. Recruitment within the defence sector must reflect the diversity of society at large, in terms of ethnic background, equal opportunities for men and women and age range. Increased diversity brings new competencies and a broader base of experience, making the defence sector stronger and more able to meet challenges both at home and abroad. Diversity reinforces capacity for change, innovation and progress. Greater diversity may provide a broader base for recruitment, providing the defence sector with a profile as an attractive employer in an increasingly tough labour market.

One goal is to recruit and retain a higher ratio of female employees in the Armed Forces, particularly in military positions. The initiatives introduced to date have not generated the required results. Experience gained from compulsory examining and classification of women for military service will be evaluated in 2014. The Norwegian Government will  come back to  the issue of gender-neutral compulsory military service.

The military profession is unique as it involves working in times of peace, crisis and war. This requires a very specific professional development and specialisation. The Armed Forces invest substantial resources in educating officers and providing them with the competencies which are unique to military personnel. A number of military personnel also work in positions which do not require specific military competency. These positions will however require an understanding of military actions and will complement the roles of military personnel.

At the same time, it is essential to recruit and retain personnel with a civilian education in positions where military competency is not required. These positions may involve administration, economy, the environment and management, to mention a few. Such personnel can either be appointed in civilian posts or provided with supplementary military education in order to become part of the military organisation. This is all a question of developing a higher degree of diversity within competency, more flexible and effective solutions for recruitment and the utilisation of competency and an increased level of cooperation with other sections of society in order to cover the broad spectre of competencies required by the defence sector.

It is also necessary to increase the level of flexibility so that competency is available where required. If it proves impossible to make expedient use of an employee's competencies, schemes or other programmes may be utilised to help the employee change careers.

Managers who are in charge of personnel shall play a central role when it comes to the deployment of military personnel and the recruitment of civilian personnel within their organisation. By increasing the level of flexibility, we will be able to ensure recruitment of the best qualified personnel, irrespective of category. Competency shall be the decisive factor when recruiting civilian or military personnel, provided that the military competency is not all-important.

The Armed Forces need less general competency and more specialised competency. Within the Armed Forces, the norm is still for time-limited positions and frequent rotation between positions. While the current pace of development within technology requires specialised competency for numerous assignments, today's personnel schemes and career paths have not been sufficiently adapted to this need for specialisation and continuity. Military preparedness and logistics are good examples of areas where there is a need for further development of competency and specialisation. At the same time, it is important to retain military personnel with a broad base of experience and advanced military education. Despite this, it will be necessary to increase the number of officers who have followed a horizontal career path. Employees with generalised and specialised knowledge must be able to complement each other and jointly contribute towards value creation if we are to achieve our goals. The defence sector aims to meet the increased need for in-depth, specialised competency by expanding career paths, reducing job rotation for military employees and introducing horizontal recruitment and career cycles also for civilian personnel.

The organisation's education and training programme shall be determined by its needs for manpower. The military educational system will be reviewed in order to ensure that it fully reflects current and future needs in a cost-efficient manner. The defence sector's educational capacity shall target military disciplines and functions, when other institutions do not provide such education. Moreover, the defence sector shall increase utilisation of civilian educational programmes, including cooperation agreements with civilian educational institutions. An increased input of civilian competency combined with an increased share of personnel following a horizontal career cycle and a broader exploitation of the civilian educational system may affect the number of  officers educated at at Bachelor and Masters' level in the internal educational programme .

The defence sector has to view its competency requirement and competency production as a part of the total resources within society at large. This requires a flow of competency and exchange of knowledge between the different agencies within the defence sector and with the rest of society, and new cooperation and alliances where appropriate. Increased competition for labour provides the opportunity for increased use of foreign manpower, primarily from allied countries, where appropriate and necessary, in order to cover the competency gap. This may help improve access to technical professionals.

Moreover, it is important to promote all the opportunities provided by a career in the defence sector in order to be recognised as an attractive employer and to meet the requirements and expectations of future employees. This may involve opportunities for development, technological work platforms, varied tasks and a greater degree of flexibility across the boundaries of the different defence agencies.

The defence sector constitutes one of society’s most complex and comprehensive competency inventories. The schemes established for the different categories of personnel are complex and fragmented. General changes in security policy and the subsequent restructuring of the Armed Forces have also resulted in changes in the fundamental premises for a number of these schemes. The current model is not sufficient for the needs of a rapid reaction capability defence to retain and develop military specialists. For military positions, several areas in the sector have a high level of job rotation, particularly for specialist functions.

This year, a process will be implemented to evaluate and make recommendations for a framework for future personnel schemes in the defence sector, including the officer corps. The personnel schemes must provide for the need for efficient transfer of competency both within and across personnel categories. Furthermore, future schemes must meet the defence sector's need for specialised competency and flexibility. Current schemes provide scope for further development of these areas. The process to develop the officer corps shall therefore include an evaluation of how either to further develop the current officer corps to cover commissioned officers, commanding officers and officers on time-limited contracts, or alternatively decide on a model involving a specialised corps, which also includes enlisted personnel. This evaluation will require a review of the special 60-year retirement age for officers. The evaluation must be seen in light of schemes which provide for a balance among age groups and specialised competency. It must also be seen in light of demographics, expectations of people living to an older age and other special arrangements for retirement age in society.

The Armed Forces' payroll system has been subject to substantial simplification processes in recent years. There still remains scope for improvement and simplification to the system. The current system principally rewards high rotation and development of broad competency, while continuity and specialised competency are not sufficiently supported by incentives. The Ministry of Defence aims to enter into dialogue with the labour organisations to start a process whereby the payroll and incentive schemes are reviewed so that they can be better adapted to the needs of a rapid reaction capability defence.

The area of personnel and competency shall be more clearly integrated into the defence sector's control and management processes and shall become a key factor in planning  and decision-making processes. Good management of competency shall be secured by making use of in-depth analyses of the need for and access to competency. By improving the systems surrounding management and employee development, the defence sector shall achieve a higher exploitation of the competency of its employees.

This White Paper presents initiatives for the short term and areas which require further review and decisions. The initiatives presented to date can be implemented within the framework of the prevailing long-term plan for the defence sector, Proposition to Storting no. 73 S (2011–2012). Any economical and administrative consequences of the recommendations to come in subsequent studies will be reviewed and presented along with these studies. The initiatives have been divided into four areas; strategic competency management, competency integrated within management and control, efficient systems for management and development, and cooperation and openness.

If we are to achieve this competency reform, it is essential to ensure good and predictable general conditions for the employees and that there is a shared understanding of the need for change. It will therefore be important to continue our close cooperation with the labour organisations.

 

 

 

 

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